The Bad Witch Rises?

When I got back from Mexico this week, my DVR had unseen treasures awaiting me. Truly! Unseen! There were no reruns for once. Viacom finally let loose the stranglehold it had on Comedy Central and returned the fake news from which I obtain far too much of my cultural information these days. There was the episode of (don’t tease, there’s an Auburn student in the competition and you know I’m loyal to my babies) The Glee Project where I hoped that Lily would finally be asked to leave the stage for good. And the USEF Dressage pre-Olympic Games Training Sessions! Woot. (Yes, woot. The Bad Witch gets the Equestrian channel. Eff off.)

True Blood and that great line by Sam Merlot with which I may have over-identified a little too much. When asked if he would give up everything “special” about himself for a “plain old regular life,” he responded that his higher-self would say, “no way,” but that the realistic (fictional-character) human (shape-shifter) that “didn’t ask to be a hero – super or otherwise,” had to concede that he was plumb “tired of fighting” against bigotry and idiocy but alas, “we are what we are.”

But despite all of the eye candy available from the comfort of my overstuffed sofa,[1] The Bad Hubby and I ventured out into the local Cineplex to see a different kind of hero: The Dark Night Rises.

Aside #1: The Bad Baby was piiiiiiised that she missed the premier on accoun’a’ being on a luxury cruise, poor thing. Now, we heard about the hullabaloo at the opening while we were in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Our stomachs sank when we recalled that  The Bad Baby’s Bestie, visiting la familia in the east-burbs of Denver, was a ticketholder. She had bought her tickets before leaving Alabama: Aurora Century 16, midnight showing. Without good cell service and no internet, we held our breath for a minute. I let The Baby make a seven-dollar phone call — for some inexplicable reason, mini-Bestie couldn’t get a ride to the theatre. Hallelujah? Hell yea. When we all reconvened in the Bamas, I thought it was appropriate to be in near-attendance when both girls finally got to see the show.[2] Plus, I had a hot date.

Aside #2: I, for one, love movie previews. And I’ve gotten pretty good at judging a movie by the way it sells itself. e.g. While I have a weird chubby-crush on Jonah Hill, I don’t think I could bring myself to see Neighborhood Watch; it looks like the previews show all the funniest scenes. I’m not interested in another Bourne film, nor can I think about another Superman. The new Tarantino (Django Unchained) looks good – I mean Jamie Foxx and DiCaprio? (Speaking of DiCaprio, I can’t wait for Gatsby.[3]) Finally, The Hobbit, my childhood favorite of the Rings saga. And Oz: The Great and Powerful has me running back to Baum’s old titles for one last look so that I may get the taste of Wicked out of my mouth before I proceed to the theatre.

(Don’t get me wrong, I loved McGuire’s revision. But it’s a revision. Never, never, never confuse Wicked with Baum’s Oz.[4] McGuire had a specific agenda in his portrait of Elphaba. I agree with him. However, I can also see the motivation behind the portrait of Elphaba and Galinda. At the point where Galinda saw the sacrificial goat as her moment of conversion, I had to choose between throwing the book and giving in to his fictional heterodoxical scapegoat story. You know how TBW feels about lies and scapegoat stories, right?)

Aside #2b: Here’s a bit of the official synopsis for Oz: The Great and Powerful: “When Oscar Diggs (James Franco) . . .is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz . . . he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams) . . . . Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. . . .”[5] I wish him a great deal of Disney-based luck on that.

Aside #3: Intellectually, The Bad Witch is Leibnizian rather than traditionally Cartesian. I understand the necessity for Descartes’ application of the Platonic table of opposites – hell, I teach it in the classroom. However, in my personal belief system, I see the universe as a Deleuze & Guattarian schizoid rhizome. (Imagine how difficult this made my study of the Headless Rite.) Everything touches everything – spectrums not binaries. My Good Witch/Bad Witch post intended to illustrate that. Everything is always already contained in its opposite. (And, as some of you pointed out in ensuing conversation, we cannot judge a book by its cover – or a Witch by her t-shirt.[6]) However, in a language which has learned to be driven by Lacanian “Lack,” it’s so much easier to grasp a concept if we compare it to what it is not. (But, of course, we must always remember that all designations in language are entirely arbitrary. Despite Platonic “Ideals,” there is no intrinsic “treeness” about a tree that makes us call it “tree.” Blah, blah, blah.) For that reason, and because Cartesian binaries are how most folks view the universe, it’s hard to talk about shite like “goodness” and “badness.” This is why we have Baum and Batman, no?

On that note, I’m never sure if I like the Batman movies or not.

I loved the old Adam West show, but that had more to do with bonding with my big-brother than it did the “Pow” bubbles and the Batarang, the Interdigital Bat-sorter, or the Batzooka. Plus, Commissioner Gordon was “in on it.” In the Dark Knight series, he’s “in” on it, but he’s an absolute political douchebag. More on that in a minute. I really loved – still love – the Tim Burton Batman (perfs. Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger). Much of that had to do with the soundtrack, but it was also a new kind of movie in 1989. The Dark Knight series had me at Heath Ledger. Wonder if Oz will have me at Michelle Williams.[7]

Aside #4: You know that I love caves and that there is a cave where my ancestors settled before selling the area as a commercial caverns project, right? Before earning its current name, it was called (and is still called by many locals) “The Bat Cave.” How much do I love saying, “It’s time to take the kids to visit The Bat Cave”? Cracks me up every time.

But, like I said, I’m never sure if I like the Batman movies. Yes, yes, they try to shade the grey areas between integrity and depravity but, in my mind, they end up creating villains that were never meant to be villainous. I’m not talking about Batman here; I’m talking about Commissioner Gordon.

Without any spoilers, I will try to tell you how I felt about The Dark Night Rising from The Bad Witch’s perspective. Firstly, if you’ve seen The Dark Knight, you know that the only reason Batman gets a bad rap is because Commissioner Gordon conspires to cover up Harvey Dent’s “Two-facedness.” Knowing that “The Bat Man” saved his son’s life, he still allowed Gotham to make Dent a hero (on account of they never saw him as Two-Face), to erect statues in Dent’s honor, and to vilify Batman.

The audience is fairly aware of the fact that Batman is our hero (or anti-hero if we must), so that hero/villain binary is not in question. But no one pays much attention to Gordon, save to say that he moves the plot along. But hear me out – he lied to his entire constituency, his boss (the Mayor), and all of the police sworn to uphold justice. How can we espouse evenhandedness when the truth is withheld? Subtle variances involved in selective perception and the re-reporting of others can make palpable differences in judgment – and justice, no? Then when he had the chance to tell the truth (in the most recent film), he chickened out. Presumably because it is so entirely impossible to unring such bells. Tell me, how many folks do you know who still believe that Saddam Hussein constructed the 9/11 plot? How about the other end of the scale – Pontius Pilate? He washed his hands of the crucifixion, right? He was an innocent bystander of sorts, right? Whatever. Ron Reagan freed the hostages too. Despite all evidence to the contrary, folks will hang on to their villains – particularly when it makes their falsely-heroic narratives more palatable. It’s all part of culture building – see “This is not a Test.” (And maybe the ones about Jonah and White Fang.)

So what happens to Gotham (this is a metaphor, folks) now that the citizenry know that Batman is their hero and that they have been misguidedly celebrating “Dent Day” for eight years? Do they feel like idiots? Do they mistrust authority? Do they ever really accept Batman as a protector – and if so, how do they feel about Gordon? How can Batman and Gordon ever have a working relationship (in the real-life metaphor, not in the fictional comic-book movie)? As viewers, do we ever forgive Gordon for telling such a bald-faced lie about Batman? And perpetuating it for near on a decade? And will anyone ever know that Batman sucked it up and let Gordon do his thing at his expense?

I understand Gordon’s motivation, that’s not the question. Gordon had to save face, make himself look good rather than fessing up to his role in the creation of The Joker – who then created Two-Face. Then once he had the opportunity to tell the truth, he chose to hang on to power rather than show the reprobate he really is. It’s human nature. It’s not a “higher” human nature – as Sam Merlot would agree, but it is what it is.

From my Witchy perspective, it’s better to look past obvious villainy (Batman, Bane, Catwoman) to root causes – the underlying egos and falsehoods that create meaningless designators like “good” and “evil.” Divide and conquer works, even if it works on a false premise of binary opposition. But as Pagans and intellectuals, aren’t we called on to look deeper than the surface?

Yes, you are right. It does suck to go to the movies with The Bad Witch.

 

 

[1] And some movie I recorded for my niece and her partner, though we didn’t get to watch it before they had to head back to Miami.

[2] But then again, I’m paranoid – right? Whatever.

[3] I ended up naming my chicken coop “East Egg,” BTW.

[4] That would be like saying the film was an accurate revision of Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.

[5] Goldberg, Matt.  Collider.com. “First Synopsis for Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great and Powerful Starring James Franco.” 26 July 26, 2011. Web. 26 July 2011.

[6] While in NOLA, I almost – *almost* – bought a “Kitchen Bitch” apron. Almost.

[7] More likely Rachel Weisz.